Blake Snow

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Tagged music

Smashing Pumpkins: “Like something from the 1900s,” my daughter says

Virgin Records

Virgin Records

Although they were one of my top three bands in high school, Smashing Pumpkins haven’t rattled my earbones much since. Maybe twice in the last decade.

To remedy that, I turned on Siamese Dream last week for myself and my posterity. My six-year old aspiring-drummer headbanged to it. My eight year old — who prefers electronic music — raised an eyebrow at it.

“Sounds like something from the 1900s,” she said unamused. I laughed and informed her that it was, more specifically, from the early 1990s, which reportedly took place two decades ago.

Well, when you put it that way…

Fun fact: Siamese Dream’s overly thick or “fat” sound is largely the result of up to 100 recorded guitar parts per song.

This performance gives me chills and makes me smile every time I watch it

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I get it. These guys are overplayed. The Old Navy of Rock ‘N Roll. Maybe even a bit pompous.

But if the above video doesn’t alter your opinion of said musicians, you’re a snob.

DISCLOSURE: U2 doesn’t make my top 10 or even top 20 band list. But I still believe they’re deserving of much of their success. This is my favorite song of theirs. And Achtung Baby is a ’90s masterpiece.

Here they are: My favorite albums of the year

Starcadian

Starcadian

Looking back, I won’t remember 2013 as a particularly strong year for music. But I did enjoy a handful of new and retro albums and have fond memories of listening to all of the below, ordered by most played to least played.  Continue reading…

Neighborhood violinist is music to my ears

Interpretation of dreams

Interpretation of dreams

Few things make my ears hurt more than listening to an untrained violinist. It’s insufferable. On the contrary, hearing a skilled violinist is a delight, perhaps second only to an expert piano player.

I listened to an accomplished violinist by accident recently. I was working. My window was open. It was raining. And then it started: a faint viola. A good one. It played for a solid hour without hitting a single stray note. It was the best live performance I’ve heard in a while.

I wonder if the player even knew their was an audience. I hope they practice again soon.

Readers: What’s your favorite unaccompanied solo instrument?

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Click: A few of my favorite links this month

link

In an effort to reduce the spam I email to friends and family, take this:

Top 25: My favorite songs

music_note2I was asked to compile a list of my top 25 songs for a recent family reunion. Here it is for all to see.

As for my methodology, I didn’t submit a single political or consensus vote (i.e. notice no Beatles songs or critically acclaimed “Smells like Teen Spirit”). I only picked songs that are personal favorites; great songs that have special meaning to me, even if some of them are admittedly inferior to others not included on this list. And since my remembering self is biased, the list skews to recent favorites.

Enjoy.  Continue reading…

Remember when I played in a band with the brother of Imagine Dragons?

Screen shot 2013-07-22 at 2.55.17 PMLast month, iTunes shuffled a humble group of songs to my playlist and with them a wave of nostalgia.

The tracks themselves aren’t much, just old, amateur recordings from a short-lived college band I played in. Before iTunes recalled them, I hadn’t heard them in almost a decade.

But they ain’t bad, either. I played drums. My good friend Robert played bass. And the older brother and manager (Hi, Mac!) from the singer of Imagine Dragons played guitar. That totally sounded like the 31 Flavors girl from Ferris Bueller or Chunk from Goonies, but whatever.  Continue reading…

With exception to rap, new music is abnormally good this year

2013 might be to the ’10s what 1991 was to the ’90s — a monstrous year for name brand music.

Phoenix already released their 4-star keeper. Vampire Weekend releases their third album next week to rave reviews (and another really great song). An all analog Daft Punk album follows a week later, which is also garnering favorable reviews and has a catchy summer single.

Then, Empire of the Sun, makers of one of my favorite albums of 2008, releases their second album in June. The first single is good stuff (and shot, by the way, in Bryce Canyon, Utah). And if the first five months are any indication, even more good vibes could crop up in the second half of the year.

As someone who likes to sing, dance, and play air guitar, I’m excited by the prospects. Calendar years are more memorable with good music.

Second class musicians: Why some bands hide touring members

touring-band-member

A friend and I have been discussing touring band members and studio musicians today. After I complimented Phoenix’s rockin’ touring drummer, my buddy emailed this:

“I always have mixed feelings about the use of utility musicians in live performances. While I appreciate Phoenix having them all clearly visible on stage, it drives me a little spare to see The Killers or Muse bury their spare fellas off behind some speakers. And then you have Green Day, who have had a second guitarist helping them out for over ten years, but he still isn’t a member of the band.”

Here was my reply: Continue reading…

Top 5 songs from Phoenix’s upcoming album, Bankrupt!

phoenix-bankrupt

I heard an advance preview of Phoenix’s upcoming album, Bankrupt. It does not disappoint. Overall, it rivals the must-own quality of their last three albums, and runs circles around their forgettable debut album.

While Bankrupt doesn’t charter new territory, it’s undeniably fun. It will make you want to dance and sing. It’s like eating a perfectly ripe peach in August after waiting a really long time to indulge in the familiar sweetness.

For all the people with good taste who plan on adding this album to their library, here are five essential tracks I suspect you’ll be humming most: Continue reading…

Blast from the past: This ’90s album aged well; one of the decade’s best

rentals

When Return of the Rentals released, I was sixteen. I instantly fell in love.

Not only was it a five star album then, it’s a five star one today. To put my money where my mouth is, I think it’s aged as well as Weezer’s seminal Blue Album, something not a lot of ’90s albums can say. (Anyone tried to listen to Nevermind lately? Yikes!)

The reason The Rentals debut still speaks to me is because I like playfulness, groovy synths, classical music, catchy melodies, and ’70s hard rock. That and it makes me want to dance. It makes me want to play air guitar, head bang, and sing aloud. It makes me want to start a band again, even though I never will. It’s like looking at an old photo of yourself and liking what you see. That’s a beautiful thing.

And just like it did when I was 16, the song “Move On” quells any desire I have to run away from my problems. Just singing the words is relief enough to face them. That’s why I love this album.

If you’ve never listened to it, or if you haven’t in years, I highly recommend a spin. You friends with P.?

The perks of hiring a piano teacher

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As part of her piano lessons, my 7 year-old studies one piece of classical music each week, hand-picked by her teacher.

Consequently, our entire family has been exposed to wonderful music, stuff well beyond the popular Mozart, Bach, and Beethoven pieces. It’s like we’re getting a personal classical music DJ or curator, in addition to professional lessons. Score!

I plan to make a compilation of our favorite new discoveries. In the meantime, I’ll leave you with this playful, beautiful, and surprising dandy by Haydn, which was the study assignment for this week.

Enjoy.

One of rock ‘n’ roll’s greatest verses

brian-johnson

And it came to pass, that rock ‘n’ roll was born. All across the land, every rockin’ band was blowing up a storm.

The guitar man got famous. The businessman got rich. And in every bar there was a super star with a seven year itch.

There were fifteen million fingers, learning how to play. And you could hear the fingers picking, and this is what they had to say: Let there be light. Sound. Drums. Guitar.

OOOOOOHHHHHHH, LET THERE BE ROCK!!!—Brian Johnson

I listen to this song often while working on my body. It never fails to get me going.